Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Heresy: Cancer and Viruses- the Best Evidence of Intelligent Design!

Cancer and Viruses have got to be the most amazing things! Think about it, even more amazing that reproduction. After all, modern science has been able to cure previously infertile couples with regularity, creat life in vitro, even freeze fertilized eggs (zygotes) for future use. Amazing.

Yet, cancer, what an even more amazing thing it is. How it starts is a mystery even to oncologists. How it spreads undetected until it's too late- quite something. HOw cancer hijacks cells in distant locations on the body in metastasis is essentially the kiss of death for most who experience it. Our best treatments- high tech radiation and patented chemotherapies are hardly a match for cancer- where success is measured in extra months a patient has rather than expecting a total cure. The cancer even evolves and adapts to the chemotherapy- forming a resistance.

Viruses are no less amazing. They also develop immunities to our vaccines, if we're able to form a vaccine at all. They also hijack cells, but in an even more amazing way. They hop aboard a cell and inject their own DNA into the cell, like a sinister combination of a dyslexic mosquito crossed with a computer hacker!

Yes, these things were just too random to form by chance. They needed a designer. A sinister designer. An evil designer. One that has no regard for the young children his invention strikes. Or the mothers, or hardworking fathers. Nope. This Intelligent Designer could care less.

Have the intelligent design loonies overlooked this point?

Here's another- our susceptibility to cancer and viruses are incontrovertible evidence of UN-intelligent design! If a cell phone company manufactured as many phones with terminal defects equivalent to cancer, heart disease, viruses, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, blindness, retardation, progeria, agromegaly, taysachs, spinal bifida, and on and on- that cell phone company would be regarded as incompetent and we'd expect it to become bankrupt! What happened to the intelligent designer crew here? Have they overlooked the obvious again?

28 Comments:

Blogger Jak Black said...

What on earth does this post have to do with intelligent design? Are you saying that because there are Bad Things in the world, that there cannot be a God? That's ridiculous. Just look at Tanach - even without the commentaries, heh - and you'll see that G-d often punishes, and threatens to punish, the Jewish people, as well as the world at large. Obviously, punishment means that there will be Bad Things. And even without punishment, who said that there can't be Bad Things in the world?

1/08/2006 5:53 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"What on earth does this post have to do with intelligent design?"

Because ID'ers point to watch-like things to infer active design, so why not look at not just the complexity of the design (and cancer and viruses are among the most befuddling things to modern medicine) but also to the nature of the design?

1/08/2006 6:04 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Are you saying that because there are Bad Things in the world, that there cannot be a God?"

No, it's really just a reductio ad absurdum argument- ID'ers are faced with quite a conundrum- God designed viruses and cancer with far more complexity than he did with reproduction! At least in terms of our billions and billions of dollars and scientist hours spent trying to conquer cancer and viruses to no avail.

It would seem if there is a watchmaker, he's either an Evil Watchmaker or at least a rather merciless one.

1/08/2006 6:07 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

No, he's a just one. Justice sometimes entails punishment.

Again, you haven't shown why diseases mean that G-d is evil or lacks mercy.

1/08/2006 6:18 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

And on further thought, I don't see where you've substantiated your claim that cancers and viruses are intrinsically more complex than their human hosts. In fact, many are quite simplistic. Maybe one of the scientists here can tell us which is in fact more complex, cancers or human cells. I suspect the latter.

If scientists went to kill off a virus, there are many ways to do so. The problem lies in finding a way to kill the parasite without taking the host with it. This says nothing about the relative complexities.

1/08/2006 6:31 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Again, you haven't shown why diseases mean that G-d is evil or lacks mercy."

No, I can't prove that of course. But if I were to "prove" that God was evil in proportion to amount of senseless suffering he allows, I would first have to have proven that sickness is objectively evil. I know the response is that "God works in mysterious ways."

But again, that's not the point of the post, which I can see is perhaps unclear. It really is an anti-I.D. post. Maybe you have a suggestion on how to make it sharper, but my main point is that you can't infer design of just the pretty butterflies, but also the insidious diseases, seemingly rendering millions of lives throughout time to be meaningless, short and exceedingly filled with suffering.

1/08/2006 6:35 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Just to follow up- remember- we supposedly believe in hashgaca pratis, not the greek conception of a god who just set things in motion and they took on a life of their own.

So, IDer's- did God sit down at the drawing baord and dream up these horrid afflictions?

1/08/2006 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mean this in a nasty way but I can't even follow your argument. It is so disjointed and circuitous, I can't grasp your point, other than it being anti-ID. Could you clarify?

1/08/2006 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's MD -- Malevolent Design.

1/08/2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"It is so disjointed and circuitous, I can't grasp your point, other than it being anti-ID. Could you clarify?"

"It's MD -- Malevolent Design."

Are you guys the same Anon? If so, Anon, now you've got it, if not, make up some names!

M.D.- that's as good as anything. It goes like this:

If you believe I.D., your main argument is "living things, especially humans, are too complex to have arisen by chance alone, therefore they must have been designed."

I take it further with the example of viruses and cancer. They would all the more seem designed since they are so complex, modern medicine has hardly come close to taming either one.

A step further: modern medicine being a yardstick of biological complexity, it appears cancer and viruses are even more complex (and therefore took more designing "work") than even reproduction. Therefore, the "designer" is a more evil designer than a good one, if you believe design to be willful.

1/08/2006 2:30 PM  
Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

It is a rather malevolent design. Punishment is one thing, (I of course don't believe in that either) but indiscriminate destruction and torture is another, but any one who understands the nature of disease and illness understands that they are blind to whom they pursue. Proximity, immune status, and luck determine who is taken, not good deeds, or character.

If you are looking for a system that is designed by a benevolent being, you will not fing it here on earth. This is why the rabbinate flee to the idea of the great equalizer, olam habah, where god makes up for the randomness of his cruelty in this world....olam habah is a later creation in judaism and again leaves more questions than answers.

1/08/2006 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no question you've been very hurt by the frum world. It sounds as if you were hurt much more deeply than I - so please do not take anything here as a criticism. I only mean to share an approach which has worked for me. I share similar frustrations, which while not as painful as yours, have been assuaged by my asking, "so now what?". I was so angry at the system that I wished the worst against those people who, under the guise of being public Torah figures, seemed to obviate its core values in the pursuit of the same. It's possible to be angry for decades and recycle this anger with the argument-of-the-day. Resolution and menucha will not come about this way. I allow myself to say that I was hurt, I should not have been hurt, they were wrong, and were to I go now. It's a process, but if life isn't about trying, then I don't know what it's for.

Our autonomic system ("fight or flight) is good at immediate physical survival, but does little to advance ourselves on higher level - i.e. self-improvement, moving forward in life, inner reflection, etc.). It usually does the opposite.

I hurts me to see people who seek to vent their anger as truth-seeking - and showing how the other side is utterly stupid, provincial, and incorrigibly inept. A lack of respect for the other position is a good indicator that the debater is not seeking the truth. Rather it indicates his seeking to satisfy an emotional need under the pretense of an ostensibly intellectual exercise.

If this world is all there is, and there is a G-d, then I would agree with you 100%. What gets me by is knowing that if there is a G-d, and he is good - then by definition, then whatever He gives is somehow, in some way, beneficial in the most profound way. I have not had this tested by loss, so I would be naive to say this to those who have suffered loss and trauma. The only thing I can say is that I learned this from those who did. Thank you for reading this. -D

1/08/2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

D,

thank you for replying, although I don't know if you where replying to me or to BTA, probably BTA, but I will address your comment if you don't mind.

I like the even handedness of your reply, but for all the sweetness and understanding in your tone, your point is a bit prickly. You seem to suggest that all admonitions against religion are based on emotional outbursts from our traumatized experiences with frumkeit.

But this position belittles us much in the manner that you were complaining of.

Our (I shouldn't speak for others so change that to "my") opinion is not just a brash reaction to past mistreatment, it is a formulated and logical response to a system that does not make sense.

By pinning an opinion on an emotional response you are denigrating your opponent as a "hothead", and thus relegating the content that he espouses to "emotional venting".

Give your adversary more credit than that. Disbelief in religion is an extremely rational realization, and does not require any one specific temprement to complete.

1/08/2006 6:48 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Just a quick note, as much of what I'd have said was already done in the comments above...

It's impossible to argue conclusively either way regarding "why" God would allow evil or design the world in a way that includes things such as cancer or viruses. For each complaint, there is an answer (cancer exists so the rest of us have a way of appreciating what we have; or to encourage us to remember everything comes from God, and we should be aware of that, and do so with prayer; etc.). That doesn't prove there is a God, either - only that the God crowd is no worse off than the random crowd when it comes to how the world works.

1/08/2006 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Avuyah,
If the shoe fits...

1/08/2006 9:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Anon- first of all, ditto what Ben Avuyah said.

You said: "A lack of respect for the other position is a good indicator that the debater is not seeking the truth."

This is simply not so. I do not have a lot of respect for people who think the earth is flat or who think the sun orbits the earth, or who think the universe is 6000 years old. Does that mean I do not seek the "truth?"

At what point do you feel comfortable laughing off an argument?

Now, I think what we have here is a pretty good conundrum for ID folks. You will see what a trap it is for them to refute the position stated in the post. That is, they will have to use the same arguments against this take on ID that are most effective against ID. Try it out.

1/09/2006 2:46 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

"Now, I think what we have here is a pretty good conundrum for ID folks. You will see what a trap it is for them to refute the position stated in the post. That is, they will have to use the same arguments against this take on ID that are most effective against ID."

Again, ID only posits that there is a designer, but says nothing of His intent.

1/09/2006 3:02 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"ID only posits that there is a designer, but says nothing of His intent."

Agreed, but since the ID crowd always have had a religious agenda, this might make them see the folly of their ways. For example, they would have to teach the possibility of an Evil Watchmaker along with a Good one.

It reminds me of how the Bible Codes came out and then, a nanosecond later- there were christians and satanists finding bible codes to fit their particular religions.

1/09/2006 4:36 AM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

Well, no. They'd only have to teach the possibility of a watchmaker, period. I rely on the proof of the Kuzari that G-d gave the Torah, and you can see from the Torah itself G-d's intent.

And the Bible Codes are crap by the way, useful only for Fifth Stream kiruv and nothing more.

1/09/2006 4:44 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I rely on the proof of the Kuzari that G-d gave the Torah..."

Since you are honing your tanach skills... ;)

The Kuzari is rather problematic given the perek in Nehamia where Ezra finds "the scroll of the Torah" in the lifnei lifnim of the destroyed first temple. He reads it aloud and it is clear that no one knew succos was a holiday, and didn't know how to observe it even.

Thus, how can the Kuzari really claim an unbroken chain of the SInai story from ancestor to descendants when they don't even recall the second biggest zecher ltzius mitzrayim after Pesach itself? And note the end of the perek, where it states Succos had not been observed since the days of Joshua!

Thus, the Kuzari is quite weak and without factual basis.

8:14 And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:

8:15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.

8:16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.

8:17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

8:18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.

http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/neh/8.html

1/09/2006 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It almost seems that you are make an argument for I'd. That's kind of what you're doing when you say these diseases are so difficult to cure. Are you really a sheep in wolf's clothing. An I'd proponent masquerading as an opponent?

1/09/2006 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two points:
First, if you think you are breaking ground here, you're sorely mistaken and misinformed. The cancer argument was raised in the earliest throes of the ID debate. A little late to the game,aren't we?

Second, since part and parcel of the ID position is that the Designer need not have been a deity. Indeed, some would argue that that is the only difference between ID and religion. Therefore, asking whether the designer is evil only begs the question. The answer, according to ID proponents can be a resounding Yes!

1/09/2006 7:26 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Therefore, asking whether the designer is evil only begs the question. The answer, according to ID proponents can be a resounding Yes!"

1. Please point to a single ID proponent who admits this point.

2. At the heart of every ID guy is a religious motivation.


"It almost seems that you are make an argument for I'd."

That's the trap of ID. I already explained it above, you just have to read it.

1/10/2006 3:34 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"The cancer argument was raised in the earliest throes of the ID debate. A little late to the game,aren't we?"

Actually, I am only "in the game" because it's suddenly newsworthy. Other than that, ID is of no interest to me as it is utterly meaningless conjecture. The only people with a stake in ID are religious fundamentalists who need to believe we were designed by Daddy the watchmaker.

1/10/2006 3:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, did you sidestep every single question. You talk about the Gedolim being disingenous yet you can't even directly answer simple issues regarding your positions.

1/10/2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Man, did you sidestep every single question. You talk about the Gedolim being disingenous yet you can't even directly answer simple issues regarding your positions."

Ok, that's just a lie. Please point out one question that I didn't respond to.

Why not write something intelligent. You've had an agenda since you first posted here. First, to find out who I am, then to make petty and incorrect remarks. All of this must bother you very much, but you don't seem to have any balls, or like Jak you'd make a substantive post.

But again, I challenge you to point out a question I haven't responded to. Liar.

1/10/2006 12:53 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

bta
was it clear that nechemia himself didnt know about succos?

1/15/2006 6:16 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"bta
was it clear that nechemia himself didnt know about succos?"

Happy, you meant to post on the Kuzari post, I assume?

I think it's plain from the text that no one knew about Succos and certainly that no one, not even Nechemia observed it.

1/16/2006 3:15 PM  

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